Digital PlanetAuthor: BBC World Service
12 Jul 2020

Digital Planet

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Technological and digital news from around the world.

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    Can we make the web a better space?

    What is Web Science, and why does it matter? The internet is the most complex machine built by humans but it so much more than just the engineering behind it. The internet moves the data around, but the web is the space in which we humans have experiences, think of the web as a sort of super app. We're interested in the underlying technology, in that it facilitates the movement of data that makes the web possible. But from the human side, we're interested in our interaction with each other as made possible by the web, so how do we understand it in its totality rather than thinking about it as a collection of websites? Did the inventors of the internet foresee how it could be used now – as a force of good and change but also as a way of spreading hate and misinformation? By studying Web Science could the internet be made better for humanity in the future? Joining us from the WebSci 2020 Conference are: “Father of the Internet” Vint Cerf, Executive Director, Web Science Institute Wendy Hall, Director of the Ada Lovelace Institute in Cambridge Carly Kind and JP Rangaswami former Chief Data Officer and Head of Innovation of Deutsche Bank Chief Scientist at BT. The programme is presented by Gareth Mitchell with expert commentary by Bill Thompson. Studio Manager: Duncan Hannant Producer: Ania Lichtarowicz Main image credit: Getty Images

  • Posted on 07 Jul 2020

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    Exploring digital death

    This week Digital Planet explores digital death and how the COVID-19 pandemic has forced us to update our death rituals and move most of our grieving online. We hear from a listener whose mother passed away with her children by her side via Facetime and how they then moved their traditional American-Irish funeral practices online. In India people of all religions are facing huge disruptions to their traditional burials and are taking tech into their own hands to share their experiences. In some developed countries funeral businesses are using cutting edge tech including sophisticated recording set ups in places of worship to bring together mourners from across the world. People are moving more and more online not only with virtual memorials, RFID tags on gravestones and also ceremonies in gaming environments including Animal Crossing. And we find out more about the Reimagine Festival that’s about to start. The now virtual event explores death during COVID-19 and we see how people are determining their digital legacies after they die. The programme is presented by Gareth Mitchell with studio commentary from Ghislaine Boddington. (Image: Mourners live stream a funeral to family back in Nepal and to those waiting just outside. Credit: Andrew Caballero-Reynolds vis Getty Images) Studio Manager: Jackie Margerum Producer: Ania Lichtarowicz

  • Posted on 30 Jun 2020

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    Nigerian internet land rights costs fall

    A major problem in laying internet cables in Nigeria is the phenomenal cost of right of way charges – these are local state imposed fees to broadband providers. Ekiti, one of Nigeria’s smallest states, has cut its right of way charges by 96%. It will now cost $374 to lay a kilometre of broadband cable down from $11,600. Tech reporter Yomi Kazeem joins us from Lagos and explains that Ekiti aims to have full broadband access by 2021. Superethics instead of superintelligence Artificial intelligence research is striving towards creating machines that could surpass the human mind, but shouldn’t we focus on technologies that make us wiser instead of smarter? This is the central question in philosopher Pim Haselager’s most recent paper. He explains how we might use technology as moral crutches for ethical behaviour. Solar Batteries storage Renewable technology accounted for a quarter of energy production globally in 2018. It’s expected to rise to 45% by 2040. At the end of last year, the Pavagada solar park, in Karnataka, India, became fully operational. Spanning 53 square kilometres, and with a capacity of over 2000 megawatts, this is the largest solar farm in the world. But basic limitations still exist - what can be done to supply electricity when there isn’t sufficient sunlight? Our reporter, Jason Hosken, has been finding out about some energy storage solutions. (Image: Nigeria network map. Credit: Getty Images) The programme is presented by Gareth Mitchell with expert commentary from Bill Thompson. Studio Manager: Tim Heffer Producer: Ania Lichtarowicz

  • Posted on 23 Jun 2020

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    Is this the end of facial recognition tech?

    Facial recognition – what’s the future for the tech with the big names pulling out? Most of the big tech companies have now declared they will not sell facial recognition tech to police, but will this mean that police forces will stop using this tech? There are many smaller companies that have so far not declared their intentions and others are clearly breaking the few regulations in place by using people’s images without consent. It’s widely known that facial recognition technology is racially and sexually biased, and there is little, if any, evidence that this tech does help to reduce crime levels. Dr.Stephanie Hare discusses what might now happen with this tech. Online gambling surge during COVID-19 Lockdowns are making many players and gamblers move to online gambling platforms, the big issue here is that they do not come under strict regulations like their real world counterparts. Silvia Lazzaris and Katie Kropshofer report on this growing problem. Can you protect a rising number of online gamblers, many of whom suffer from addiction and are bunkered in their homes, from targeted advertising and fraud? And how can regulation catch up with this sudden shift to the online world? Will gaze tech replace touch tech in times of the pandemic? As computer processing speeds continue to increase, so does the versatility and accuracy of gaze tech – using your eyes instead of a computer mouse or touchpad. Dr. David Souto, from the University of Leicester, explains that as our eye muscles do not tire this technology has untapped benefits. His work is part of the British Academy Virtual Summer Showcase which goes live online this week. The programme is presented by Gareth Mitchell with expert commentary from Ghislaine Boddington. (Image: Human face recognition scanning system illustration. Credit: Getty Images) Studio Manager: John Boland Producer: Ania Lichtarowicz  

  • Posted on 16 Jun 2020

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    Algorithm activism – a new type of protest

    Sophia Smith-Galer reports on algorithm activism – ways of boosting protests online. With many people forced to protest digitally because of the pandemic, digital protesting, especially by young people, is the most accessible form of demonstrating support and prompting change. Sophia looks at new ways this is being done during the Black Lives Matter protests around the world. The biggest robotics conference ever… …is now virtual, just like so many other events. But this has led to more people attending than ever before and from many more lower income countries too. We hear from one team in California who are using drones to take the bus when delivering packages. Fake news during Covid-19 Since the pandemic started, many of us have found ourselves interacting less with the outside world and spending more time online. A survey by British and Dutch researchers is now looking into whether this move online has caused us to be more susceptible to fake news and misinformation. What makes one person more likely to believe a conspiracy theory than another? Professor Bas Groes tells Gareth how they are trying to find out. The presenter is Gareth Mitchell with expert commentary by Bill Thompson. (Image: Social media apps on a mobile phone. Credit: Getty Images) Studio Manager: Matilda Macari Producer: Ania Lichtarowicz

  • Posted on 09 Jun 2020

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